he City of Cambridge has installed an Augmented Reality exhibit, developed by students, which explores systemic racism. The exhibition was placed in front of the Cambridge Public Library at Joan Lorentz Park earlier this month.
The exhibit, titled “This Should Not Be”, was created by students at the Cambridge Public Library STEAM Academy, a collaborative between the library and Innovators For Purpose, a local charity which gives young people experience working on real projects.
Manager of innovation and technology at the Cambridge Public Library, Reinhard Engels, stated that the exhibit consists of several posters that are scattered around the library and when scanned with a smartphone, come to life with Augmented Reality technology.
“Each of these physical posts has a specific location that is recognized by augmented reality software… When you walk around the exhibit with the free Hoverlay app, it recognizes these signposts and superimposes augmented reality content on these signposts.”
The project was funded by the City of Cambridge, Cambridge Trust, Cambridge Public Library Foundation, Margaret and H. A. Rey Curious George Fund, Eric and Jane Nord Family Fund, and Verizon.
Co-founder and CEO of Innovators for Purpose, Michael K. Dawson, stated that the idea for the exhibit arose from discussions with students following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, as well as other incidents of police brutality.
“The goal was to give teens a platform to speak out against systemic racism and talk about their ideas on how we might create an America that we can all believe in,”
Director of Libraries for the City of Cambridge, Maria T. H. McCauley said the library decided to host the exhibit because it seemed like a “natural extension” of its goal of supporting learning and literacy.
“The skills that the students are learning are really incredible – it’s very high level work… They will definitely be able to bring these skills into industry, if that’s what they so desire.”
The exhibit launched on Nov. 5 and will remain on display in the library, which plans to expand its AR initiative to other locations across the city.
STEAM Programs Manager at the Cambridge Public Library, Emily St. Germain, shared that the students hope that the exhibit sparks conversations among visitors.
“The intent of the installation was for people to engage in conversation around racism and race, particularly as it’s tied to the pandemic, and to begin to think about what more they might do to combat racism,” she said.
McCauley went on to state that the exhibit demonstrated the strength of the partnerships that came together to support and underwrite it.
“I think that this is a really wonderful example of what can happen when different community partners and funding partners come together,” she said. “We really can transform lives, and I think the people walking by recognize that it’s a powerful experience for them.”